Jeremy Corbyn the modern day Harold Wilson or John Major?

December 8th, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn came to the Labour leadership contest as an outsider and was elected as a revolution, a rejection of Blairite centrism and a return to socialism. It was a choice to try to find and rally latent support on the left as a path to victory rather than trying to occupy the centre-ground and the tactics of triangulation. It’s a decision that the Democratic party is wrestling with in their search for a nominee in an election that feels both a great opportunity and a huge risk.

If Corbyn has a sense of English irony he might reflect with some amusement that he has spent most of his time as leader trying to play the moderate dealmaker who will find a compromise between the two warring sides. Brexit overshadows all else as not only the most important issue but being mentioned twice as often as the next highest issue; the imminent general election seems set to go down in history as the Brexit election. 

This choice for a centrist path seems to have been born out of ideology before it was driven by strategy, Corbyn’s 40-year record on the EU and its forerunners has always wandered between hostile (mainly before he became leader) and lukewarm (as leader.) It’s a history that’s much in line with old Labour views, Labour supported remain in the 1975 referendum with a divided cabinet and the so-called ‘longest suicide note in history’ manifesto of 1983 (when Corbyn entered parliament) promised withdrawal from the EEC, to be completed well within the lifetime of the Labour government.

It took falling behind the Liberal Democrats at the European elections for him to move (or be moved to explicitly supporting a second referendum. It remains to be seen which major party benefits more (or is hurt less) by a Lib Dem revival, they are taking more votes from Labour but their previous general election success came through taking Conservative seats in South West England. Labour’s move to

Corbyn currently appears to be trying to model himself after Harold Wilson, who supported remain with more of a shrug than a shout, except with even less personal commitment. All of Labour is likely to be free to campaign whichever way they believe in a referendum, while Corbyn will wait for the party to make a decision that he can follow. It’s a position that rather unfortunately echoes Tony Blair’s shot at John Major (also beset by splits over Europe) for following his party rather than leading it.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal


A new betting strategy worth pursuing?

December 8th, 2019

Don’t back Corbyn critics in seats they are expected to hold & back the Corbyn supporters in the seats they are narrowly expected to lose?

There’s a fascinating story in today’s Sunday Times

Momentum, the grassroots campaign group that backs Jeremy Corbyn, proposes on its online campaign map that canvassers travel to areas whose candidates are devoted followers of the Labour leader — even when the activists live in marginal constituencies where the party could win.

The campaign group says the map allows supporters to find “events in the marginal seat that needs [them] most” by entering their postcode or location.

However, an investigation by The Sunday Times has found repeated examples where this is not the case, raising the prospect that the tool is being used to prioritise supporting candidates who are sympathetic to Corbyn over winning seats at the general election.

In Scotland, Gerard Killen, — who resigned from Labour’s front bench in 2018 over Brexit and had a majority of just 265 — appears to have been abandoned as the residents of his constituency, Rutherglen and Hamilton West, were sent to aid the Corbyn-backing Hugh Gaffney’s seat, Coatbridge Chryston and Bellshill, where Labour has a majority of 1,586.

Other pro-Corbyn candidates also appeared to be being favoured on Momentum’s map last week. Supporters in 12 different constituencies were advised to canvass for Kate Linnegar in North Swindon, where the Conservatives had a 8,335 majority. Momentum is directing its supporters to help her despite the fact a YouGov constituency poll predicts the Tories will comfortably retain the seat.

Linnegar, who promotes Momentum on social media, has come under fire for sharing a Facebook post that said the anti-semitism crisis engulfing the party was a “smear campaign”.

Campaigners living in 11 constituencies were urged to canvass for Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt in South Thanet, where the Conservatives won by 6,387 votes in 2017.

Former MPs who have previously been deemed “hostile” to Corbyn appear to have support directed away from them.

These include Mary Creagh, who had a majority of 2,176 in Wakefield, and Emma Reynolds, who had a majority of 4,587 in Wolverhampton North East. The map does not direct supporters living anywhere in the UK to help either candidate.

The Sunday Times say this maybe down to incompetence than malice but still it will influence my betting outlook in the individual constituency markets. Corbynites who are at risk might be worth backing on the back of Labour’s resources being directed towards them and backing the party best placed to defeat Labour where the candidate is a Corbyn sceptic/critic (odds permitting of course.)

The longer term implications is that if this turns story turns out to be accurate then the Parliamentary Labour party will be more like Jeremy Corbyn than it has ever been which should impact on the next Labour leadership betting, a Corbynite succeeding Jeremy Corbyn, whenever he stands down, would seem inevitable.




After the debates, a plethora of polls and Andrew Neil – a CON majority remains the strong betting favourite

December 7th, 2019

Betdata.io of movement on Betfair

Mike Smithson


Can the Scottish Tories without Ruth Davidson hold onto most or all of their 13 MPs?

December 7th, 2019

At a pinch this might impact on Johnson’s majority hopes

Two and a half years ago the Tory star was then Scottish leader Ruth Davidson who saw her party north of the border make 12 gains to add to their previous single seat in Scotland. She was widely hailed as the future of the party and, even though not an MP, rose sharpy in the next Westminster leader betting.

There was little doubt that it was Davidson who saved TMay’s bacon.

This coming  Thursday those seats will have to be defended but there is no Davidson around any more. She stepped aside at the end of August citing family reasons and her conflict over Brexit.

The big question, and this could just impact on whether the Tories get their overall majority, is how many of those gains of GE2017 will remain.

The polling suggest that the Scottish Tories are holding onto their vote shares from last time but the gap behind the SNP has increased. This is largely as a result of the further collapse of Scottish LAB. In the seats being defended, though, LAB was largely irrelevant.

It could be that the Scottish Tory contingent is returned largely intact. Whatever there are a lot of fierce fights taking place.

One thing that might help is that the SNP seems to be making Jo Swinson’s East Dunbartonshire their main target.

Mike Smithson


LAB’s leadership rules will limit the number of nominees and could well ensure it’s an all-female battle

December 7th, 2019

Starmer looks a clear lay to me

Irrespective of what happens on Thursday, there will be some form of Labour leadership election soon. Tom Watson standing down as Deputy Leader (and MP) alone ensures that. If Corbyn does well enough to retain the leadership then the contest to be his deputy becomes a contest to be heir-apparent; if not, we get the full-blown leadership contest more-or-less straight away.

A few notes of caution first. The election may well not be immediately. If Johnson forms a new government but with a sufficiently slim majority (or with no majority at all), there’s a fair chance that Labour could try to disrupt the passage of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement further, which is best done if senior Shadow Cabinet members are not at each others’ throats.

Similarly, there’s a chance that the election could be delayed if Labour does form a government: holding the contest while trying to settle down into government, embark on a Brexit renegotiation and launch a radical domestic agenda is best not done concurrently with an internal contest – though it couldn’t be delayed indefinitely. The summer would be best.

However, while polls can be wrong and events can change opinion, as things stand, Labour will be remaining on the opposition benches. If so, current assumptions about how that election might play out are missing some crucial details.

When Labour changed the rules on nominations, lowering the threshold for candidates from 15% of MPs (and MEPs, if there still are any), to 10%, this was widely reported as a relaxing of the qualification. Yes and no. It will certainly make it easier for one – or maybe two – candidates to gain the required number of MPs’ signatures but that was not the only change made. In addition, in order to be validly nominated, a candidate must also receive:
– 5% or more of CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) i.e. 33+, or
– At least 3 affiliates, including at least 2 trade unions, comprising at least 5% of the affiliated membership.

These may not sound particularly onerous for serious candidates but they are. In 2015, both Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper would have failed the affiliates criterion (Kendall didn’t receive any; Cooper did but they fell short of the 5% threshold). Cooper would have gained ballot access on the CLP nominations but Kendall wouldn’t.

One thing the rule change does is put huge power in the hands of four unions – Unite, Unison, the GMB and Usdaw – each of which comfortably meets the 5% threshold: a threshold it’s almost impossible practically to reach without one of those four onside. True, their nominations don’t see a candidate directly onto the ballot paper but there are enough smaller unions and friendly societies that it ought to be possible to make the requirement.

What of the CLPs? Shouldn’t 5% be easily reachable for any credible candidate? Not necessarily. In 2016, with only two candidates on the paper, Owen Smith won the support of only 53 CLPs, representing 8.2%. Had the antu-Corbyn vote been split, it’s highly unlikely that any challenger could have gained the nominations.

Note also that the rules strongly imply that these CLP and affiliate nominations take place before close of nominations – in other words, members and unions won’t necessarily know the final line-up when they’re nominating and could well back candidates who subsequently withdraw (or be split by such candidates that they end up not nominating anyone).

So, what of the potential candidates? The current favourite is Sir Keir Starmer, though the odds of 9/2 rightly indicate how wide the field is. I wonder though. If Labour is elected, he surely can’t contest the Deputy Leader election while negotiating Labour’s revised deal within three months – which means he won’t have the machine or endorsements others will gain, nor the office.

But either way, would he even get the nominations? I’ve no doubt he would be fine among MPs but as far as I’m aware, he doesn’t have close links to any of the big four unions and while you’d think he should gain the CLP support, I have my doubts. To me, Starmer appears to lack both an ideology and passion. In any election, but particularly an internal party one, that can be fatal when his opponents will be clearly from the left and speaking to a left-biased membership.

Even if he does gain the nominations, if it takes much longer than the media expect, that will knock the momentum out of his campaign while handing over the front-runner baton to someone else. (That ‘someone else’ is very likely to be a woman. Given Labour is painfully aware that it’s now the only major party not to have had a female leader, male candidates will begin at a disadvantage anyway).

All of which is to say that I think he’s substantially over-priced. For value, I would look more to Angela Rayner (12/1, Ladbrokes / BetFred), who has been prominent in the campaign, Dawn Butler (50/1, Ladbrokes), who is a close Corbyn ally and a declared candidate for the Deputy Leadership. To my mind, Rebecca Long-Bailey should be favourite and her current best odds of 11/2 (SkyBet) are about right but at half those of Rayner, I don’t think she’s twice as likely to win.

Of course, we don’t yet know either the timetable for the election (it might start next week; it might not be until 2023 or even later), we don’t know the candidates and we don’t necessarily know the rules – they could be changed again, both if Corbyn does win but also if I understand them correctly, the NEC itself has the power to change them unilaterally.

But as certainty firms up, so value will tend to dissipate – hence why it’s a good time to scenario plan betting beyond Thursday.

David Herdson


YouGov snap poll: Johnson wins 52-48

December 6th, 2019

Given the CON voting poll lead that’s not that good for the PM

The CON majority betting has barely moved – still a 71% chance.

I thought Nick Robinson did well and it was good to see the former BBC Political Editor back on TV.

Hard to say what impact this debate will have. Most of those who tuned in, I guess, were committed beforehand. This week’s polls suggests that the Tories have bled little support to LAB during the campaign but that a sizeable slab of LAB leavers are now in the Tory camp. I can’t see that changing.

The big issue for the Tories is stemming losses to the SNP in Scotland and the LDs in Remainia

Mike Smithson


Tories drop five seats on the spreads following the Andrew Neil interview rumpus

December 6th, 2019

SportingIndex Commons Spreads

Punters think it will have an impact

Just before the Andrew Neil video attack on Johnson was published the Tories were trading at 344 sell and 350 buy on the Sporting Index Commons seats spread betting market. Those are now down five seats.

On the Betfair majority market the Tories are down just a point.

Spread betting is much more sensitive here because the more people are right the more they win and the more they are wrong the more they lose.

Whatever the markets still think that Johnson will have a comfortable majority but not quite as big is was seen yesterday.

Mike Smithson


The killer polling numbers for Corbyn – the pre election Ipsos-MORI leader ratings

December 6th, 2019

As I have said repeatedly over the years leader ratings are a better guide to election outcomes than voting intention numbers. The reason is that this form of questioning is what pollsters do best – asking for opinions not seeking to get poll participants to predict whether they might take part in some future event and what they will actually do.

Ipsos-MORI has been doing this in the UK since the late 1970s and has resisted the temptation to mess about with its long term trackers.

The result is that it is able to put together a chart like above and we are comparing like with like.

Assuming Johnson’s Tories do win then he’ll have the distinction of winning with the worst ratings on record. The reason, of course, is that Corbyn has reached record lows for an opposition leader on this metric.

It is extraordinary that he has survived with numbers that surely would have led to a replacement in earlier times.

We are where we are and it is hard to see Corbyn still being in the post a week today.

Corbyn’s net rating of -44 compares to -11 at this stage of the 2017 General Election and a score of -41 at the beginning of that campaign.

Swinson’s satisfaction level has stayed the same since October at 29%. Her problem is that her dissatisfaction numbers have moved from 41% to 51%. Essentially the don’t knows of October have moved against her.

Mike Smithson